Opiate drugs have long been used to treat the severest pain. In fact, for some people going through incredibly painful ordeals – such as cancer treatments – opiates make it possible for them to live as normal a life as possible, given their situations.
Cannabis is, increasingly, an accepted medical alternative to using opiates for the treatment of some pain. The first thing to keep in mind about this is that cannabis is not nearly as strong as opiates. Opiate painkillers are used for people who are in tremendous amounts of pain. Nonetheless, an article in Time reported that augmenting opiate treatment with marijuana treatment has some real benefits.
There are two primary dangers where opiate painkillers are concerned. The first is becoming addicted to the painkillers. Opiate addictions can ruin people’s lives and, when people are in chronic pain, constantly using opiate painkillers can result in all of the problems that accompany any type of opiate addiction.
The second real risk with opiate painkillers is the risk of overdose. Overdosing on opiates can be deadly. The study detailed in Time had hopeful news in both of these regards.
According to the findings in this study, patients who added marijuana to the opiate regimen they were on to control pain reduced their pain by an average of 27%. Additionally – and importantly – the use of marijuana did not affect the blood level of the prescription drugs that they were on. As the article points out, this would’ve been particularly disheartening, as increasing the blood level of the prescription drugs would have presented a real danger.
None of the patients had any medical problems related to using medical cannabis in addition to their painkillers. They did experience the cannabis high that is associated with using the drug, but they did not experience the same high from using the opiates. They were already tolerant to opiate drugs at the time and, thus, did not experience an opiate high.
The article points out that the death toll from prescription painkillers has gone over the death toll from traffic accidents in recent years. Medical cannabis has zero risk of overdose associated with it. While some rare individuals may develop an addiction, it is a much lower risk of addiction than that associated with opiate use.
As is unfortunately usually the case, regressive drug laws and the Obama administration have both made it exceedingly difficult to get further research done into this, as they are currently going after states that have legal medical marijuana.
As the article points out, for very severe pain, medical cannabis would not likely ever be able to replace opiates as a first-line treatment. Medical marijuana, however, has proven extremely effective in treating chronic, low-grade pain in many people. It is far less dangerous than using opiates for the same purpose. Additionally, combining the two seems to reduce the need for opiates, which could have a significant effect on the quality of life of people who have to use opiates to control their pain.